Food

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Different U.S. regions are quite particular when it comes to their food. Whether it’s the color of their clam chowder or what goes into BBQ sauce, here are weird regional food predilections.

Chili with noodles (Ohio)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

“Cincinnati chili” is different from what most other Americans would picture when thinking of chili. First off, this “five way” chili is served over spaghetti noodles, then topped with a mound of cheddar cheese as well as onions and kidney beans. What also sets the chili apart is its flavor. This comes from its unexpected ingredients, which include cinnamon, chocolate or cocoa, allspice and Worcestershire sauce. Jared Hopkins/Chicago Tribune

No beans in chili (Texas)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Chili was born and bred in San Antonio, Texas, and anyone who studies the history of the dish will tell you that putting beans in your chili is just plain wrong. As Dallas newspaperman Wick Fowler would say: “If you know beans about chili, you know that chili has no beans.” The Original Terlingua International Championship Chili Cookoff, the Super Bowl of chili contests, agrees, stating in its rules that “no beans, pasta, rice or other similar items are allowed.” Dreamstime

Vinegar-based barbecue sauce (East Carolinas)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Barbecue sauce can get different regions riled up. Perhaps the most vocal opponents of tomato-based barbecue sauce are those on team vinegar-based. In eastern North Carolina, proponents of a tangy sauce made from white or cider vinegar and spices will claim this is how sauce was made when the cooking practice of barbecuing came to this country 200 years ago from the Caribbean. Cristina M. Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Cheddar cheese with apple pie (New England, the Midwest)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

"Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze." Though the English regions of Yorkshire and Sussex claim the origins of this saying, it’s also attributed to an American woman. That might be because the combination crossed the Atlantic and became a hit here as well. It might sound odd, but if you’re from New England or the Midwest, you might think it’s totally normal to have apple pie with cheddar cheese melted on top instead of apple pie and ice cream. Susan Mcarthur Letellier/Dreamstime

Fluffernutters (New England)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Another combination that is a regional acquired taste is the fluffernutter, a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. The salty-sweet sandwich was invented in Massachusetts during World War I, though it didn’t acquire the name until advertisers attempted to promote the recipe in the 1960s. Fluffernutters hold a special place in the hearts of many New Englanders to this day. In 2014, Massachusetts lawmakers even proposed a bill that would make the Fluffernutter the state’s official sandwich. Wikimedia Commons

Disco fries (New Jersey)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Canadian dish poutine might be all the rage on hip menus around the country, but a poutine derivative from New Jersey has stayed a bit more under the radar. This diner food (named to appeal to the late-night-party crowd, so one of few origin stories goes) consists of french fries smothered in brown gravy and melted cheese. The cheese is most commonly mozzarella, but cheddar or American might be options as well. Dreamstime

Fry sauce (Utah)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Fry sauce, a rosy mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise, is especially beloved in Utah, where it’s considered a staple of Western American comfort food, according to Eater. First created and sold by Utah restaurant Arctic Circle, the combo also arose as an iteration called “salsa golf” in South America in the 1920s. Stateside, the sauce continues to be boss in Utah, with other chains like McDonald’s, Burger King and Five Guys carrying their own versions for demanding locals. Dreamstime

Clear clam chowder (Rhode Island)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

It might not come in pink, but clam chowder comes in red, white and clear varieties, and Northeasterners have preferences depending on where they’re from. Despite Massachusetts's white, creamy chowder being the version that proliferated across the country, Rhode Islanders along the southern coast take theirs “clear,” meaning the clam broth base is unsullied by cream or tomato. Ruben W. Perez/Providence Journal

Spam sushi (Hawaii)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Hawaiian cuisine is largely influenced by local ingredients, American military presence and immigrants from China and Japan, and Hawaiians have infused Japanese foods and dishes with their own flair. One resulting popular snack food is sushi-like Spam musubi. Spam became popular on the islands during World War II and has been a mainstay ever since. To make Spam musubi, a piece of fried Spam is covered in seasoned rice, then wrapped with a strip of nori seaweed. Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune

Crustless chicken pot pie (Pennsylvania)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Folks outside central Pennsylvania might only be familiar with the pie-like version of chicken pot pie in which a mixture of chicken and veggies are baked within two pie crusts in a pan or bowl. This does fulfill the “pie” part of chicken pot pie. But what about the “pot” part? That’s what the Pennsylvania Dutch focus on in their rendition of the dish. The chicken, veggies and strips of dough are all boiled together in a Dutch oven to make a chicken pot pie that more closely resembles chicken noodle soup with large square noodles. Joel Koyama/Minneapolis Star Tribune

Red-eye gravy (the South)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Much like Dutch pot pies aren’t really pies, the South’s red eye gravy isn’t quite gravy in the way most people understand it. Gravy is usually made with meat drippings, then thickened with flour or cornstarch. For a cheaper, faster fix, Southerns developed red-eye gravy, a sauce comprised of two simple ingredients: ham juice and coffee. This reddish-brown mixture naturally separates with the grease rising to the surface, giving it the appearance of the iris of an eye. James Camp/Dreamstime

Deep dish pizza (Chicago)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Another interesting take on a classic food is Chicago’s deep dish pizza, a pie rather than the thin, flatbreads popularized in New York. Both cities attracted Italian immigrants who brought the Neapolitan-style pizza with them, but it was intrepid entrepreneurs in Chicago who decided to give the dish a hearty American twist by baking layers of toppings, cheese and sauce in a cake-like steel pan. This invention has become synonymous with the Windy City and inspires plenty of debates on who did it first and who does it best. Bob Fila/Chicago Tribune

No ketchup on hot dogs (Chicago)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Chicago is also quite particular when it comes to hot dogs. A Chicago-style hot dog is nestled in a poppy seed bun and topped with mustard, onions, green sweet pickle relish, tomato slices, a dill pickle spear, pickled sport peppers and celery salt — and absolutely no ketchup. In fact, many eateries are so protective of their dogs that they don’t even offer ketchup. And the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council agrees. In its guide to hot dog etiquette, it says, “Don’t use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18. Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable.” Bonnie Trafelet/Chicago Tribune

Cheez Whiz on cheesesteak (Philadelphia)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Philadelphia’s biggest culinary claim to fame is inventing the cheesesteak in the 1930s. The sandwich originated at Pat’s, and it’s nowadays served there with Cheez Whiz, giving fans of the topping the argument that this way is “authentic.” But some naysayers prefer Provolone or American cheese. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the sandwich didn’t even originally have cheese, and Whiz didn’t even hit the market until the 1950s. Still, Whiz wins out at most Philly sandwich shops and has staunch defenders. Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle

Turtle soup (New Orleans)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

There’s one regional dish from New Orleans that more or less requires a trip to the Big Easy to enjoy: turtle soup. Turtle soup was once a popular delicacy, but overharvesting caused turtle populations to dwindle, driving up prices and availability and leading to a decline in popularity. Creole cuisine, however, maintains the meat on its menus, and turtle soup is offered at some of New Orleans’ most famous restaurants, including Commander's Palace, Brennan's and Galatoire's. City Foodsters/Flickr

Rocky Mountain oysters (Colorado)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Prairie oysters, calf fries, Montana tenders, cowboy caviar, Rocky Mountain oysters: No matter the nickname, it obscures the true nature of the dish of bull testicles. The dish is served in the American West as well as Canada, all cattle regions where cows would be castrated, resulting in some remains that ranchers didn’t want to waste. They can be served many ways, but the most popular is fried. Colby Lysne/Dreamstime

Biscuits and gravy (the South)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

This simple, cheap and filling combination has become a classic Southern comfort food. Take sausage grease, add flour, milk and pepper, and you’ve got cream gravy. Crumble the sausage back in, and top warm, fluffy biscuits with this heavenly mixture for a savory delight. According to Southern Living, one of the first ways Southern biscuits gained national recognition was Kentucky Fried Chicken, which served biscuits when it opened its first franchise in Utah in 1952. William Archie/Detroit Free Press

Pretzel salad (Delaware)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

America is the birthplace of many unfortunate dessert “salads.” After the turn of the 20th century, instant gelatin became insanely en vogue. While many Jell-O dishes, especially ones with vegetables inside, fell out of favor, some regions of the country still hang on to these recipes. In Delaware, the Jell-O dessert of choice is called pretzel salad. Pretzels form a crunchy, salty crust. Cream cheese and then strawberry Jell-O are layered on top. Larry Roberts/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Boiled peanuts (the South)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Roasted peanuts are a universal offering in bags and tins across the United States, but Southerners have a different way to prepare goobers. Boiled peanuts are the official snack food of South Carolina and can be found through Florida and along the Gulf all the way to Texas. Boiling whole raw “green,” or ripe, peanuts in salted water changes both the flavor and texture of the nut. Charles Slate/Myrtle Beach Sun-News

Trotters and chitterlings (the South)

Disco fries, fluffernutters and other regional food oddities

Trotters are pig’s feet and are consumed around the world. They can be prepared a variety of ways, including boiled, grilled or jellied, but in the South, they are most associated with being pickled. Chitterlings, often vocalized as “chitlins,” are small intestines that are cleaned and then boiled, grilled or fried. They can stink up your kitchen and are time-consuming to clean, but folks down South think the end result is worth it. Angel Luis Simon Martin/Dreamstime